TurtleWatch is a citizen science program aimed at collecting data on marine turtles in the Egyptian Red Sea. Created in 2011 in collaboration with the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA), the project has seen the active participation of many dive centers and turtle defenders from Sharm El Sheikh to Wadi Gemal. More than 1,000 sightings have been reported up to present. Data will be used to better understand turtle abundance and distribution in the Egyptian Red Sea.
What is TurtleWatch?
TurtleWatch is a project that was started in 2011 in collaboration with the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA). This project aims at involving citizen scientists to collect and report sightings of marine turtles in the Egyptian Red Sea. based on the principle “Observe to Conserve” , TurtleWatch was designed to engage the snorkelling and diving community to provide data that could help estimate sea turtle abundance and distribution.
Data collected by volunteers at sea have proven to be very useful in a number of surveys targeting coral reefs, marine mammals, fish and now turtles. Recent studies suggest that many recreational divers consider being involved in data collection or observation programs as an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of the marine environment. Marine turtles are easily identifiable species that usually occupy the same areas used by divers. For this reason, they are particularly suitable for this type of monitoring project that requires the help of non-professional users.
Who can participate?
The TurtleWatch program is open to all dive centers working in the Red Sea area and their guests. As contributor, you will receive the TurtleWatch package that contains all the information you will need to conduct a survey. In the manual included in the package, you will find also all the necessary information to involve recreational divers in the survey. Remember that this program is also suitable for snorkelers.
The TurtleWatch package
As a contributor of this project, you will receive by e-mail the TurtleWatch package which includes:
- the TurtleWatch Manual (in .pdf);
- the TurtleWatch survey form (in .pdf);
- the TurtleWatch logo/ban that you can add to your website;
- a set of Red Sea turtle identification sheets (in .pdf);
- a database where to report your sightings (in .xls).
Why an on-line package? The idea of an on-line package is to reduce the amount of printed paper, reduce the costs and of course minimize the impact on the environment.
What does the TurtleWatch package not include?
To participate in a TurtleWatch survey, you only need to be a good observer and be committed to report to us sea turtles sightings on a regular basis. The following items are not included in the package, but could help you gather more precise data:
- an underwater camera;
- a marked stick or whatever object you can use to estimate the turtle straight carapace length (see the manual for further explanation);
- a computer and internet connection to send us your data.
How data will be used?
The data collected from the dive centers will be reviewed by BEC staff, inserted in our Red Sea Turtle database and will be used to generate spatial and temporal distribution maps of sea turtles but also to estimate population trends and abundance. Reports will be published on a regular basis on our website and your contribution will be acknowledged. If you are interested in receiving regular follow-ups of the project, you can subscribe to our newsletter on our website.
Would you like to become an official TurtleWatcher? Please contact us: agnese(a)boomerang4conservation.org